top of page

St James Church

St James Church cdt Willie Robertson.jpg

Image credit: Willie Robertson

The manor of Craie was assessed in the Domesday Book in 1086 but North Cray, initially back then known as Northcræi, is first mentioned predominately in Textus Roffensis. This is a manuscript compiled in the early 1120s and, within its list of religious buildings, gives the earliest record of the existence of St James Church.

Yet the site of the church, situated off the North Cray Road, dates from Anglo Saxon times and was once the private chapel for North Cray Place, several of whose owners were buried here.

In 1819, money was raised for church repairs by selling pews to principal landowners in the area, among them Lord Castlereagh of Loring Hall.


In 1852, the church roof was repaired and the present spire added, together with new church bells and the installation of a heating system. The cost was met by public subscription.

The small churchyard is surrounded by redbrick walls with the east wall once forming a boundary with the kitchen garden of North Cray Place.
The church has monuments of Lady Ellenborough from the early 19th century as well as 17th century figures of Elizabeth Buggin and William Wiffin. There is an unusual cast-iron Royal Arms in the north aisle from the reign of James II and dated 1687.

But the most important items in St James Church are the continental wood carvings in the chancel, the majority of which were given to the church by Canon John Johnston, vicar in the late 19th century. 

The choir stalls have carvings of the Seven Acts of Mercy and the Nativity – and they include traceried panels. Most of the woodwork comes from the 15th and 16th century.


Jeffery Hetherington purchased the manor of North Cray in 1738. He died in 1767, unmarried, and left his estate to his brother Rev. William Hetherington. Both, local benefactors, are buried in a vault in the south-east part of the churchyard.


The Hetherington family are credited for making provision for a huge gateway, which still survives, from St James Church into the Meadows. Pipistrelles can be seen at dusk (particularly in the late summer) flying between the tree tops in the woodland surrounding and to the north of the church.

Further information about this historic building can be found on the St James Church website.

St James Church 2 cdt Willie Robertson.jpg

Credit: Willie Robertson

Foots Note


In the belfry are three bells, one dated 1727 and the other two 1857, though one has been recast. They were made by Means and Company at Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London. The bells were refurbished in 1999.

Explore more

This area is just one part of Foots Cray Meadows. Learn more about the other interesting areas that you can discover.

bottom of page